EP 7 Kokernag, Daksum, Sinthan Top, Achabal | Offbeat Kashmir, Season -2
We just keep climbing here. I am so happy that I climbed to Sinthan Top! Namaskar Friends! Welcome to Visa2explore! This is your host, Harish Bali. As of now, I am starting my day in Kokernag. We are about 85 KM from Srinagar.
And we are 60-62 KM from Pahalgam. We reached here quite late last night, when it was already dark. So, I could not show you around. And now, see this garden here.
I can see at least three huge Chinar trees. You can't miss Chinar trees in Kashmir. Specially when you come to Srinagar, you will see Chinar trees around. Now, we will go for breakfast first of all. They have a restaurant right there. First, let's have breakfast. Then we will visit the garden and a Chashma (spring) inside it.
First, we will visit Daksum and later the Sinthan Top. We will also visit Achabal and then end our journey in Srinagar tonight. This is our programme for the rest of the day. That is the cottage in which I am staying here.
After breakfast, I will show you the cottage from outside and inside. Come, let me show you a walnut tree while we are here. Here it is! The walnuts would be ready for harvest in September month. You can take a closer look at the walnuts.
We already know that Mamra almonds, Akhrot (walnuts), and Kesar (saffron)... ...are the famous items of Kashmir. For breakfast, we had aloo paratha! Bread-butter and omelette! I chose omelette. That would be right! They have one indoor seating space. Inside the restaurant. And another seating space is where I am sitting right now.
Behind me is the outer space of the restaurant. But sitting here seems more fun! From here you can enjoy all this greenery of the neat and clean garden. And also enjoy the light chirping of the birds living in these trees.
If you are in Kokernag for a day trip, this is where you'll park your vehicle. And you will enter the place after buying a ticket for Rs 24 per person. This is the hut where we spent last night. See, this is the room.
I've told you in the previous episode, the tariff of this room is Rs 2688. Basically, the tariff Rs 2688 is for two rooms. So that way, it is quite reasonable. They don't have many rooms or cottages.
As of today, they have 9 or 10 active accommodations. This includes 3 cottages and rest are rooms. There is an issue of upkeep & maintenance, as is the case .... ...of government accommodations. But the most wonderful feature of this property is its staff. They are aggressive, humble, with a customer-centric approach.
I am using such words because it was a pleasure staying here. Usually, such experiences are rare in government accommodations. Let us walk up to the spring.
Meanwhile, you can also enjoy the garden view. Then, we will visit the spring. Wow! So beautiful! Amazing! Too good! Do you see this small wooden bridge built here? It is such a pleasure to stand on it and watch the water flowing by. It is such fun! Looking at the water current & the amount of water, the spring must be quite large. Let us go there now. One more thing that is worth noticing! The small stones lying on the spring bed are clearly visible through water.
I mean we are able to see up to a foot deep into the water. Wonderful! The best photography point would be from atop this bridge. Lovely! It was fun! Now, let us walk up to the spring, this way, around it. This is a lovely scene! By just looking at it, you can feel the water flowing out from the mountain side.
Wonderful! Water is spouting from many places. Like here, water is flowing out from between a number of small plants. Lovely! As we walk and look around, there seems no dearth of sources of water.
Look here, you see more water flowing out! You see springs being formed wherever water finds an outlet in Earth's surface. Lovely! It is fun to watch. The name of this town is Kokernag and 'Koker' means 'Murga' or a 'Cock.' In fact, the feet of the cock is known as 'Koker' and 'Nag' is spring. It means this spring is spread in the form of a cock's foot.
Let us walk along the sides of this spring, while enjoying the flow of water. After going around the garden, we will walk up to the gate. Such pipes have been installed at many places. These pipes supply water to the Kokernag village, whose population is 3000-4000. Now as a hole forms in one of these pipes, it gives birth to a fountain.
Interesting, right? I am standing in front of a beautiful Chinar tree. Wow! Now, let us walk up to the parking. Thereafter, we will leave for Daksum. We are just 10 minutes from Daksum. And we've stopped our car to see the Brengi River. We started seeing this river when we had left Kokernag 2-3 KM behind.
So, we enjoyed a bit of the scenery while sitting in the car. Then we decided to stop here and enjoy this scenery more closely. The water current of this river is quite fast. As we travel to different places in Kashmir... ...we get to see large numbers of big and small rivers. There are lovely clouds on that mountain-top. There are a few hut-like structures where you can sit & enjoy the surroundings.
We've enjoyed the view. Now, let us cross the road and continue our journey. Take a look at this. While we were travelling, we had placed this on the car's bonnet. It wasn't fixed properly. But we still managed to catch the GoPro falling off. I have checked and it is working fine.
But it has got damaged here. The car was at a speed of 40-50 KM per hour. See the water spouting from land here. Actually, it seems the water is coming from under the ground. But this water is coming from a broken pipe.
Back there, I showed you the Brengi River. I assumed the spring would be on our way. But now I came to know that if I want to reach the spring from where this water.... ...flows down, it would take a whole day's trek to reach there. Come, let us watch from this side. It is looking wonderful, no? The water here is so clean.
Beautiful! Oye hoye! I am so happy to be here today! What a magnificent view! This water is flowing down over the rocks, step by step and... ...it looks milky white beyond comparison. So beautiful! Exceptional! Yesterday, I drank the water of the spring from where the Jhelum originates. It is so pleasant to repeat that here today.
It is a pleasure to drink the spring water, so cool! My hand is numb from putting it into water a few times. I am feeling fully fresh right now. Look there! Some men have crossed the rocks and gone to the other side.
They seem to be enjoying so much! You can climb up to a small height but... ...you will need a local person with you if you want to explore further. Terrific! See, watching a YouTube or Instagram video gives you an idea about a place. But obviously, a video doesn't give you cool air or... ...cool spring water to drink! To enjoy all that, you will have to visit the place. Let me give you a suggestion! You can keep it in mind while planning your itinerary.
You can include Verinag, Kokernag & Daksum in your Pahalgam itinerary. But doing so would increase your journey by a day. So, you can also visit the Sinthan Top.
But keep it in mind that you won't be able to go there either in March or April. Remember that you can go to Sinthan Top only after May 15. Because before that, the place is covered in a thick layer of snow. Now, today is 30th June.
And we've been told the snow is up to 4 feet deep there. Let's click some photographs here. I have already ordered maggi there. Let's eat there. Till now, we were watching the spring from that side. You see that? It is looking wonderful! Now, we've reached this side.
Look at the scene that I am going to show you now. If I look from this side... ...this looks like a normal flow of water coming out. Now, I am going to watch this scene from a few steps away. This is a first-of-its-kind experience for me.
The same waterfall looks different from two different spots. From here, it looks like glass, not water, is falling down. This makes for a great view! This spring water flows down from here. This is the same water, which I showed you as a river near Kokernag.
Its taste is ok. But the maggi that we ate on way to Gurez was tastier. Everyone has their own style of cooking Maggi. So, this is alright too! Bhaiya, please give us a cup of tea each as well. We want tea but with less sugar. We are leaving here in the next 15-20 minutes.
From here, Sinthan Top is about 28-30 KM away. It will take us about 1.5 hours to reach there. Now I am going to finish this Maggi, put on my jacket, and then we'll leave. We left Daksum 30 minutes ago.
And the view from here is completely different. We have to go there? Sir, do you see that board right there? Right in front of it, you'll see some people. It is a board? Yes Sir, it is a board. Alright! Yes! Really Sir! How will we get there? Through that winding road? Exactly Sir, on that winding road that you see. From there! Absolutely Sir! From there. Really! Amazing! Oh by God! I didn't pay attention to that! Look at that scene! The clouds are floating around! The clouds look like sitting on top of the mountains.
It is wonderful scenery to watch snow-covered mountains & these clouds! Uff! Terrific! We came up that road you see down there. People stop their cars along the several viewpoints on this road. And they click photographs too! There are also several eateries on the way, selling tea, Maggi, and other food items. Like the tea-stall in front of us. You will see such a tea stall or eatery after every 5-7 KM on this route.
We've reached the Sinthan Top. Now what should I tell you about this place because... ...I can't see anything! We are inside the clouds. The only thing I can see is this board, which says Kokernag is 48 KM away. Achhabal, where we are headed, is 64 KM away, via Kokernag.
Anantnag is 72 KM and... Daksum...where we ate Maggi, is 32 KM away. That board and a few cars are visible & rest is covered in clouds.
Right in the middle of clouds! A light drizzle is also about to start. In case it starts raining, we'll have to leave within 5 minutes. So, till it doesn't rain, we can enjoy here.
What a scene! I have rented these shoes for Rs 100 per pair. Now, I have no idea about what is on our left or right side. I can only see the road! And tourists! Good that I wore this heavy jacket or I would've been in serious trouble.
Normal jacket wouldn't have worked here. Just imagine that this is the scene on 30th June. So, what would it have been a month ago? So cold! In the beginning, my hands were warm while I was sitting in the car.
But gradually, even my hands are getting colder. The place where we've parked our car has snow on its left as well as right side. We saw most tourists going towards right so we're following them. Okay! So we've snow bikes here! Lovely! Come! The place where I am standing has, at least, 3-4 feet deep layer of snow. I found out the charges from a snow-bike operator.
Though the rate is Rs 1500 but they can come down to Rs 1000-1200 for a ride. They will take you to the peak, give you a 5-10 minute ride & then back. If you want a shorter ride, obviously, you'll have to negotiate the rate. There is no fixed rate here. Everything depends on the tourist traffic. The rates go up in case the tourist influx increases. It is great, right? Okay, one more thing! The snow right now is mixed with mud, so it isn't clean.
Obvious reason for this is increased tourist influx & activities in the area. If you reach here around 15th May, you will find fresh snow. Earlier, I thought it would rain.
Now the weather is alright! You take the sled up the mountain. Yes! How far up do you go? Up to 150 or 200 meters. 200 meters? Yes, up to 200 meters. And from there, you will slide it down? Yes, both sled and snow-bike come down easily from there.
Yeah, we saw the snow-bike earlier. Well, I have to admit, snow-bike is a machine. But the real work is done by you guys. Yes, because we have to carry it uphill. Yes, it isn't a joke.
I think just this sled alone must weight at least 25 KG. It is 25 KG. 25 KG! Here, we can't carry ourselves at this altitude & he is carrying extra burden. Okay brother, thank you very much! Today, this place has a lot of fog! So, visibility is down, which isn't always the case. This place would have a different charm in clear weather. Because if you are coming down, either on a sled or a snow-bike,...
...you can see both on your left and right, so that has its own charm. And so does the fog as well! It is feeling nice here! Good! Let us walk further. Then we will return slowly. Till now, we were walking over snow. Then I thought, let's do one thing, let's walk on the side, where there is no snow.
So, we are walking in this direction, hoping that up ahead, we will get some clear snow. I felt like eating something sweet while climbing uphill. So, I've opened this packet of biscuit! I feel that the natural resources of India... ......are so rich, so rich! Since I haven't visited Europe, Bhutan, so I won't be the right person to comment on that. But I can say that if our tourist spots are as clean as people say in Bhutan... ...or generally as it is in Europe.... ...all those Indians who travel abroad would start travelling in India, thus saving currency. And specially, a lot of tourists would come to India from abroad as well.
Now, surroundings like these are a major factor behind that not happening. So, use plastic responsibly & only if unavoidable, like you have to have water while travelling. But carry it back with you, like we do, and...
...dispose it off in the right place. Many people do this and a lot of others don't. This was a small social message for my viewers. Now let us walk a little further. And let's see if we can find a view to watch from there. Come! Uff!!! Ohh man!! The view down there was nothing.
The wind down there was nothing in comparison to what I am experiencing here. Let me try to hold an umbrella of Irfan Bhai, to show you the wind around us. It is good that you had this umbrella with you. It is taking a lot of effort to hold it. I think if I hold it any longer.... ...no no, I won't fly away to Daksum... ...but your umbrella will tear off. Please close it! Otherwise, the umbrella would get unnecessarily destroyed for this demonstration.
I must have visited numerous hill stations so far and each had its moment. It is for the first time that I am experiencing a moment where the wind is blowing like a storm. And the clouds are continuously hitting me in the face. If I stand here holding a piece of paper, it would get wet within seconds.
Because around me are clouds filled with water inside. Even my hands have become slightly wet. This should give you an idea of how wet these clouds are & how fast the wind is blowing. When down there, I had no idea that I would get to experience such fast winds here.
To be honest, I am unable to express my happiness today. There are only two months in a year when you won't get to walk on snow here. August & September! Snow lasts till mid- or end of July. Though it could be reduced by a foot or a few inches.
You can even assume to have snow up to 31st of July. Fresh snow starts falling after October. You should visit here only after confirming in Srinagar that the roads are open. Otherwise, there is no point in reaching here mid-way and then learning that the roads are closed. If you are travelling by your car, you must first check with the Tourist Reception Centre (TRC), Srinagar.
Whether the roads are open or not! Now let's do one thing. We've enjoyed a lot here. Now let us walk down slowly. A light drizzle has already begun. One can't trust the weather here as it could start raining anytime. And between us, we have only one umbrella.
So, getting drenched unnecessarily would be of no use. Chai, Momos, Omelet! Give me two boiled eggs! Also give me two slices of bread. We've reached our car! And I thought it would be good to eat boiled eggs before leaving. Here, boiled egg is sold for Rs 20 a piece. And I also got some bread for myself. What is the rate of Maggi here? Rs 100? For Rs 70.
Let me put this here. We had reached here at 2.15 PM and it is 4.30 PM now. We will leave here after we finish our tea.
I've noticed that even at 4.30 PM, tourists are pouring in here. These could include those tourists who started late from Pahalgam. But one thing I've understood here is that if you want to reach Srinagar by evening,.... ...it would be better if you reached here early in the morning. It isn't advisable to reach here at 4 or 4.30 PM. And since it is a mountain top, the weather can take a turn for worse without any warning. I will now finish this meal and leave.
We will now stop once we reach Daksum. We've reached Daksum & now have stopped here for a break. We will sit somewhere for 15 minutes or half an hour. Then, we'll leave for Achhabal, which is at a distance of 45 minutes. I had on my mind a JKTDC property located on the main road. But as soon as we reached here, we saw it was locked.
It means this property is closed. It isn't operational. So, I am going to take a stroll now. If we find a nice place to sit, we will stay there or... ...we will stroll for another 10-15 minutes & then leave for Achhabal. We've reached Achhabal. We've come here to visit a garden and a spring.
I've purchased a ticket for Rs 24 per person from that ticket window. Outside, they have written some information about this garden. So I read that and understood that... ...this garden was built by Mughal queen Noor Jehan (wife of Emperor Jehangir). It is a garden, obviously, and people come to visit that. But this place is mainly famous for its spring. All this that you see in front of you is spring water.
Besides the spring water, there are smaller fountains installed here. This garden has three channels to propagate the spring water. First channel, I will show you once I reach that side.
This is the second channel of water. And that is the third channel. So, let us visit the third channel first.
Then we will go upto the source of this spring water. See, this is the spring water. Now imagine water is flowing down at a good speed through three channels. You can feel the water current, just by looking at it. See!
It is good, right? This channel isn't as big as the one in the centre. Come, let us proceed further. The water flows here on the same concept as is available in all Mughal Gardens. Water flows down a step like this one.
Then, it flows further. There are a couple more steps like these, through which water flows out of the garden. It is rarely that you come across such a large tree. Huge! There are many Chinar trees around, like this one here.
You may not be able to see it clearly because of diminishing daylight. See this tree, it is bigger than the earlier one! This is Chinar as well. Standing here, I can see at least 4-5 more Chinar trees up there.
This is a lovely scene! So beautiful! It seems we are closer to the spring. Because the garden looks like it ends here. Looking here, one can understand that water is flowing down from under that building. Let us get closer to it.
There are two sources of water here. One is the water coming in from here. From under this building.
Alright! And another source of water is from there, in that direction. I noticed while entering the garden that water is flowing through three channels. One is the centre channel, which is large in size.
One, which I just showed you, is on our left and the third one is there on the right. So, basically, this water from two sources leaves Achhabal garden through three channels. Let us go there and see if we can understand this system better. See, how water is coming out from under the ground! It is wonderful! Amazing!! There is so much water coming out that it is enough to fill up this pool here.
Okay, that is the second source there! Please come! See, this is the second source. Really good! So good! I can see water coming out from 3-4 different spots here. The spring water has medicinal properties. What a pleasure! Let me share some information that I have gathered online.
Some people believe that the original source of this water is Brengi Nullah. This is because we saw Brengi Nullah in Daksum. That Nullah disappears at a place known as Dewalgam. And it reappears here. I tried searching Dewalgam on Google as well as among the locals but nobody could tell me anything.
If you know anything about it, let me know in comments. Whether this spring is a different one or is it connected to the Brengi Nullah. I am interested in knowing the fact out of curiosity.
I really wish we had reached here earlier so that I could show you the garden properly. Then there is a difference in the colour of water during day and night. But it is still good that we saw the spring water here. This spring seems to be different. I have never seen such large springs anywhere as I have seen here in Kashmir.
For example, visiting the origin source of Jhelum river yesterday was a good experience for us. Overall, the garden is nice! The only thing is there is a lot of plastic strewn around. This garden needs some cleaning & maintenance. Let me now say bye-bye to you! Next episode will be available on Harish Bali Travels. That will be half-day journey of Srinagar and rest about back to Delhi journey. Bye-bye! Thanks for your time!